Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Freedom From Religion, Part 2

Yesterday, I wrote about the community center planned for Park Place in lower Manhattan. Contrary to the shorthand used in media reports, it is not "The Mosque at Ground Zero." There are so many people spewing hatred and intolerance and I don't intend to give them more attention. Instead, I turn my attention to two people who have stood out as voices of reason in this debate.

Michael Bloomberg, the Jewish mayor of New York City, offered a stirring speech from Governor's Island while surrounded by leaders of a number of New York religious communities. In his speech, he said,
"Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here. This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions or favor one over another." 

"Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11, and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values and play into our enemies' hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that." 

Another voice of reason is Fareed Zakaria, host of his own program on CNN and international editor of Newsweek. Mr. Kirby and I have been watching the program on Sunday mornings and have learned much from the rational, thoughtful discussions he encourages from guests who can articulate a vision and disagree without attacking each other. (CNN -- you want to know how to succeed? Put this show on at 8pm instead of Elliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker.)

In 2005, Zakaria received the Hubert Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize from the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that purports to ""fight anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defend democratic ideals and protect civil rights for all."    

Sadly, it seems the head of the ADL, Abe Foxman, has missed the second point of that message as he has publicly come out against the building of the community center and mosque. Zakaria, noting this position goes against the very reason for the ADL's existance, returned the award and the $10,000 honorarium. In his letter to the organization, he wrote,
I was stunned at your decision to publicly side with those urging the relocation of the planned Islamic center in lower Manhattan. You are choosing to use your immense prestige to take a side that is utterly opposed to the animating purpose of your organization. Your own statements subsequently, asserting that we must honor the feelings of victims even if irrational or bigoted, made matters worse.
Thank you, Dr. Zakaria, for showing us that it is possible to add more light than heat by facilitating discussions on cable news and for making such an eloquent statement against bigotry of all forms. 


West Haven Bob said...

Those who wish the government to step in to stop this are more attuned to Nuremburg than to New York. To illustrate:

Simply take any of these fools' arguments, and substitute:

"Temple" for "Mosque"; and
"Jews" for "Muslims".

Tell me then if this sounds more like "Nazi in my backyard" than "Not in my backyard".

Nopartisan said...

Personally, I could care less if the "mosque" is built there or not. It's a moronic debate.

One side the anti mosque group wants to deny some constituional rights. And it includes some who hate muslims, period.

On the other side many who support the mosque don't acknowledge the fact that Mr. Rauf is not exactly the moderate as portrayed. He speaks out both sides of his mouth regarding terrorism in the muslim world. Just back in June when given the chance to condemn hamas as a terrorist group he refused. There are other examples that you can research.

So should the mosque be built? Yes, the Constitution says it should be.

Should Mr. Rauf's image as a "bridge builder" be put under the microscope? Yes. His on the record views about the middle east tend to blame America for all the regions ills. And his failure to call those who target civilians as terrorists speaks volumes of where his feelings really lie.

Kirby said...

West Haven Bob -- I couldn't agree with you more. Hence, the comparison with the 92nd Street Y in yesterday's post. And in the early 1900s, Catholic churches were fought right here in Connecticut.

Nopartisan -- I have no opinion on Rauf. But a movement to stop any type of community center or house of worship because of the religion therein is simply horrifying to me.

Authentic Connecticut Republican said...


Both West Haven Bob & Kirby got it right!

This entire fiasco is quite beneath us as Americans and looks too much like the treasonous unAmerican assholes that make up the Litchfield Historical Commission that have blocked a Synagogue there.
(That case is now in court the good Rabbi having filed a RLUIPA law suit which will hopefully wind up costing the citizens of Litchfield in excess of 20 million.)

Poor title however; there is no freedom from religion in the United States as that would in some cases constitute a restraint of the very practice of some religions.

Indeed the perpetually annoying Jehovah's Witnesses won a SCOTUS decision decades ago giving them the right to knock on your door even in a gated private community.

As Americans we're obliged to be tolerant of others even when they're annoying.
(It's unclear if that includes Harleys with straight pipes or cars with boom boxes.)

The good news is that means they have to put with us too.

Get used to it, it won't kill you.